Do Your Co-Workers REALLY Like You? How to Tell,and Why It's Important

Now here's a scary thought. What do your co-workers think of you?

A new study says, people who don't like you, you might not have a clue.

“We looked at whether people understood what other people in the workplace thought of them,” says Hillary Anger Elfenbein, professor of organizational behavior, at newswise.com. “You tend to know who likes you. But, for negative feelings, including competitiveness, people had no clue.”

Researchers initially surveyed salespeople at a Midwestern car dealership where competition was both normal and encouraged. A second study included surveys from more than 200 undergraduate students in 56 separate project groups. All were asked similar questions about their co-workers, and what they assumed those people thought of them. When the responses about competition were analyzed, the results were striking: While there were those who were pretty detached the their co-workers, they completely canceled out.

In other words, co-workers have no clue about their competitive cohorts.

“Some people show their competitiveness, some people you can tell have it out for you, but others have it out for you and act like they’re your close friend,” Elfenbein notes. “Those two effects wash out, and people on average have zero idea about who feels competitively toward them.”

Researchers offer two main reasons for the disconnect: First, people tend to mask outward feelings of competitiveness toward others in an effort to be polite. Also, the concept of reciprocity played a role.

“For liking, reciprocation is a good thing,” Elfenbein says. “You keep dates, you give gifts, you have shared, positive experiences. But to get the benefits of competition, such as promotions or perks, you don’t need it to be reciprocated. And when you don’t get that feeling back, it’s hard to gauge who’s truly competing against you.”

So what to do?

 “You need to pay more attention to what people do rather than what they say,” Elfenbein advises.  “When people are too polite to say something to your face, you need a good, strong network that will let you know what other people really think.”






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